Should you let your batter rest for gluten-free baking?
Many bakers think letting the batter rest is an essential part of successful gluten-free baking. But that’s not always true.
One of the most common gluten-free baking tips is “let your batter rest”. Letting the batter rest gives the gluten-free flours and starches more time to absorb the moisture. In theory, it will turn your dry, crumbly cakes into delicious, moist masterpieces. In reality, while letting it rest is essential in many gluten-free recipes, it’s unnecessary in some cases—and may even hinder the results.
Why let it rest?
Gluten-free baked goods have earned the reputation of being dry and gritty. That grit—that evil grit!—is the result of gluten-free flours that are often high in starches and rice flour, which take longer to absorb moisture than regular “gluten” flour. Letting your cookie dough sit for 60 minutes can make the difference between a cookie with a gritty mouthfeel and one that you would never guess is gluten-free.
When you should let it rest
From my experience, letting the dough rest is especially important for low moisture baked goods like cookies, biscuits, scones, and pastry. These recipes contain a lot of butter and fat, but not a lot of liquid ingredients like milk, water, or oil, which would speed up the softening process. This is an important tip to know as a gluten-free baker. When trying a new recipe, and the resulting texture is a bit dry or gritty, consider letting the dough rest and compare the results. If it’s still dry, you’ll want to try changing up your flour mixture (or adding more fat/liquid).
For reference, here’s the minimum amount of time I let my doughs rest before baking with them. Most often, I let my dough rest in the fridge. However, for very low moisture baked goods, where you don’t need the butter to stay cold (like shortbread cookies), I’ll let it rest at room temperature.
Biscuits and scones both contain milk, so they absorb the moisture more quickly. Cookies and pastries mainly contain butter, so they require more time.
When you shouldn’t let it rest
I see people giving this advice all the time:
“Let your cake batter sit on the counter for 20 minutes before putting it in the oven.”
And I want to scream “NOOOOOOO!”
When you’re working with a high-moisture baked good (like a cake, quick bread, or a muffin), the baking powder begins reacting the moment the liquid is added. That means that while you let your cake sit on the counter for 20 minutes, you’re losing those amazing gasses produced from the baking powder that will make your cake rise. There will still be some oven spring, but not as much as when the batter was first mixed.
Not to mention, that adds an extra 20 minutes of wait time until you can eat your delicious cake (when you don’t have to)!
Tips for best results
If your high-moisture baked goods (cakes, muffins, quick breads, etc.) are turning out dry, you should try:
- Add some almond flour: Using a small amount of almond flour in your baking can enhance the taste and texture dramatically. Due to the high moisture and fat content, it can also add moisture, and will help your baked goods to brown. Consider reducing the flour in your recipe by ¼ to ½ cup and swapping it with almond flour. (If you can’t have almonds, try gluten-free oat flour, which also has more protein & fat than the average all-purpose flour).
- Add more fat or liquid: It might just be that you need a bit more moisture in your recipe, especially if you’re converting a regular “gluten-ful” recipe to gluten-free. Try adding anywhere from ¼ to ½ cup of liquid or fat to the recipe and see if that helps. My go-to moisture-enhancing ingredients are sour cream, canola oil, or butter.
- Use a different gluten-free flour: While I am firm on my stance to not use all-purpose blends, I realize not everyone has jumped on this bandwagon. If you’re using pre-mixed blends, consider trying a different one, as certain blends may be starch-heavy or contain flours that have a dry texture.
In conclusion, if you’re making a low-moisture baked good (cookies, biscuits, pastry), you should absolutely let it rest. If you’re making a high-moisture baked good, get it in the oven ASAP; if you’re not getting a beautifully moist baked good, you need to change up the ingredients. While gluten-free baking has a reputation for being dry, it doesn’t have to be that way!
Did you find this advice helpful? Shoot me an email and let me know!
(P.S. Want to learn more about gluten-free ingredients, techniques, and how to make gluten-free baked goods (that no one would guess are gluten-free)? Check out my free lessons and my baking courses, including The Essentials, The Holidays, and The Bread Course!)